Wanted: flexible corporate strategies for fast times

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 13.35.36Writing in the Financial Times this week, Andrew Hill says that “People often think business is about strategy but it’s actually one part strategy and nine parts execution.”

Leaders managing in uncertain times, he says, are looking for tools and frameworks to help them plot a path.

The Escher Cycle is a book that integrates strategy and execution. It is both “A unified theory of business” and “A blueprint for winning any game your business chooses to play.

The book starts by asking what are the fewest activities any business needs to do to be successful. It then builds step by step to identify these activities, and provide a simple focused framework describing how to carry out each one.

How well these activities are carried out in comparison with rivals is what defines business advantage.

Together, as one reviewer put it, they describe how to run a business “as a living organism.

This, surely, is exactly what leaders seeking to plot a path through uncertainty need.

Self-Reinforcing Cycle of Leadership

Another example of the Escher Cycle has popped up in an unexpected place: personal leadership.

Suppose you have decided to change something in your business. You’ve decided to create a new product or service, open a new location, close a location, change the way that something in your business gets done, or whatever.

The first thing you do is create a plan. You use your personal insights, and the experience of any other leaders involved, to design how you want the organisation to be and how you’re going to achieve that.

Then your plan becomes a change project: you and the team work together to implement what you have planned and bring about the new way of doing things.

In the process you all have your own individual experiences of the change. You all experience it from different perspectives, depending on your roles, and you interpret those experiences in different ways.

Later you reflect on what worked, and what didn’t, and these experiences then get converted into new insights and rules of thumb. “Getting stakeholder buy-in is the most important part of the process,” “Getting stakeholder buy-in is a waste of time.” “A 15% margin for contingencies is really important” or “A 15% margin for contingencies is way too high.” And so-on.

When the time comes to design the next change project you use these insights and experiences to plan what is possible and how you will acheive it.

The repeating cycle looks like this: Continue Reading >


Over the past decade Toyota has grown to catch up and then overtake General Motors as the world’s leading automotive manufacturer.

This short video explains how this remarkable gain can be understood in terms of the self-reinforcing competitive advantage that is generated by the Escher Cycle.

The second largest automotive manufacturer is now the Volkswagen group, and this company runs a similar cycle:

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